1. You are a musician and you´re running your car with vegetable oil. Why did you do that?
I tour all year around. When I am in Europe, I travel by train most of the time, but that's only about 1/4 of the year. For the rest of the year, I'm in the US/Canada/Mexico, and I drive a van. I generally drive around 5,000 miles per month. So for 9 months per year, that's 45,000 miles. In my van, I get about 15 miles per gallon, so that means that per year, I use 3,000 gallons of fuel. If I were buying diesel fuel all year, at the going rate of about $4 per gallon, that would be $12,000 per year that I'm spending on fuel.
That is way too much money for me to spend, especially when it supports an industry I truly hate.
The petroleum companies that rule the world's gasoline and diesel supply are among the least ethical companies I know of. I probably don't even make $12,000 per year, so there's no way I could do it economically, and even if I could, I wouldn't feel good about it ethically or environmentally.
I believe strongly that we as a species need to overcome our addiction to petroleum, and open up new avenues of energy. The future of our planet depends on it.
2. How you got the idea and where did you know from how to do it? Did
anyone help you?
I have had lots of help. I first heard about running on veggie oil from some friends in Texas.
I might have heard about it before that, but I didn't think it was a real thing. These friends in Texas told me they were buying a school bus and converting it to run on vegetable oil. I was really impressed, and I loved the idea immediately. As we became better friends, and played music together, they invited me to tour with them (in 2007). This was my first experience riding on a
Honestly, we had lots of troubles, but I learned so much from that trip, than when I decided to buy a van that also ran on veggie oil, I knew lots of ways to avoid the difficulties from that first trip. For
instance, we didn't really find good ways to filter the oil until halfway through that first trip. We tried lots of different ways, some of which were terrible, and which probably caused our bus to
break down several times that tour.
So before I started running on veggie myself, I bought some professionally manufactured filters.
They were not too expensive, and they last a long time. It was a good investment that I only knew I should make because of that experience having no good filters. This wonderful group of friends in Texas were in a band called And the Fureis Say, who are still good friends, and who I owe so much.
3. Where do you get the oil from and do you get it easily?
I get oil from restaurants. Usually, I try to use oil from Chinese restaurants, or other Asian restaurants. There are a few reasons for this. First, Chinese restaurants fry a lot, and so they have more oil than many other places. Second, Chinese food has very little (if any lard) involved. Pork and beef are not the main ingredients, compared to American food or Mexican food, for example. Lard (animal fat) is only liquid at very high temperatures. At normal room temperature, it becomes solid, and so it is not as good for a fuel. If your fuel becomes solid, it will not run smoothly through your fuel lines. Instead, it will clog them up. Just as eating a lot of red meat and
pork can clog up our arteries, the same is true of a fuel system and an engine. If you ever get curious, go behind a Mexican restaurant and look in their grease dumpster. It will be a solid vat of fat. But if you go to a Chinese or Japanese grease dumpster, it should be a liquid, which is easy to pump out and easy to burn for a diesel engine.
4. What are/ were the biggest problems you had and how did you solve them?
The biggest obstacle I face is finding oil that is not already owned by someone else. In the last decade, there have been more companies who take the oil from restaurants, because it is a good energy source they can get for cheap or free, and they will sell it to make profit. I don't wish to
make a profit from it, but just to power my vehicle from one city to the next. But the oil companies can offer something I cannot. They promise to pick up the oil on a regular basis, which the restaurants appreciate because that means they don't have to think about it, and can just focus on making food.
So most places I find good oil, if I ask the restaurant if I can have some of their used oil, they say no
because they already have someone who picks it up. This leaves me with a few choices. I can keep driving around, and hope to find a restaurant that will let me take it with permission, or I can choose to take it without permission. In the latter case, I often do this at night, when the places are closed. If it's after business hours, there is no one there to ask permission, so I just take the oil.
Technically, this is often considered stealing, and therefore I could be arrested for this. But I have never been arrested for this, and I don't think most people care too much about someone stealing what is essentially trash from the restaurant. The only people who do care are the big companies, because they would rather make profit from this trash than have me use it to travel around.
5. Could you encourage other people to do the same with their cars?
The problem I stated above is really only a problem for a true nomad like me. If you live in one place, you don't have to deal with the risk of breaking the law so much. I would highly encourage you to talk to restaurants personally, and make them the same deal that these companies do: you can pick up the oil frequently, which does them a service. And at the same time, it provides you with the oil you need for fuel. It is a win-win situation.
6. What´s the response to your nicely smelling vehicle?
Many times when I tell people that my van runs on veggie, they don't believe it. Other times, their first question is whether it smells like french fries. The answer is no. My van usually smells like Chinese food. But if you use grease from a place that cooks french fries, of course then
your car will smell like that. But in the US, most places that cook french fries also cook hamburgers and/or bacon, and so I would not use their oil, since it might be full of lard.
7. Any advices to other people or something you really want to say about this?
This viral, out of control version of capitalism we are currently experiencing depends entirely on marketing. More specifically, it depends on convincing folks that they need things even when they don't.
Gasoline is something we just don't need. The old forms of energy are very destructive, and there are so many better, cleaner ways to fuel our lives. I run on veggie oil in order to sidestep this stupid
machine of false-needs that destroy the planet through over consumption. But its' just one step. I still have a long way to go, as does everyone.
Whether or not you decide to run a vehicle on vegetable oil, there are many ways you can stop buying/using things that you really don't need and that really don't make your life or anyone else's any better.
8. What´s about the future? How do you want to travel/ how you want
other people to travel?
Though I'm very glad to have joined the veggie fuel revolution, it's only a small step. We need to keep working on Hydrogen energy, solar energy, and other renewable forms.
In the film "Back to the Future", Doc travels to the year 2015 and he is able to power the flux capacitor on his Delorean with banana peels and other trash. I'd like to see us get there in the next few years too.
Thank you very much!
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